Wealthy Criminals, Bankrupt Media
In the midst of Rob Ford's admission to smoking crack while in office, Canadians seem to have forgotten what lengths some bloggers and journalists were willing to go to have him brought down. Gawker – with the support of the Toronto Star – was willing to hand $200,000 to drug dealers for a video showing the mayor doing something illegal. As if publishing rumours without real evidence wasn't bad enough, they were willing to put nearly a quarter of a million dollars into the hands of known Somali criminals. This disturbing behaviour exhibited by a well known Canadian newspaper sets two new precedents. Along with raising serious ethical questions, the Toronto Star's publication of scandalous hearsay without evidence has the potential to bring the standards of reporting down to a frightening new low.
Publishing a photo of Rob Ford with two drug dealers – one deceased – isn't enough to incriminate a mayor who is known for snapping random photos with average citizens. It might be enough to add credence to a rumour, but it isn't enough to accuse someone of smoking crack cocaine.
When all was said and done, the crack video ended up being real. However, before any real evidence was ever published, Canadians were expected to believe that two journalists were telling the truth. Maybe it was because they had degrees and worked for a known newspaper, or maybe it was because so many Canadians wanted to believe that Rob Ford was guilty. Whatever the answer might be, hearsay and verbal testimony are seldom regarded as news-worthy material. Hearsay can't be considered evidence when trying to convict someone in the court of public opinion. If hearsay was considered legitimate, that would mean that anyone working for any organization could publish damning rumours about anyone they don't like. It would mean that reputable newspapers are just simple tabloid magazines.
When all is said and done, hearsay is nothing more than gossip in the world of journalism. The only relevant place for hearsay in journalism is when it triggers a deeper investigation. In the Toronto Star's case, the crack video and rumours of its existence didn't lead to anything but months worth of slander and allegations. When the real video turned up, it wasn't the Toronto Star that obtained it, it was the Toronto police. In fact, the Toronto Star provided no valuable investigative journalism to prove anything beyond hearsay.
If journalists in Canada begin following the example set by the Toronto Star during the “crack video scandal”, it would mean that word-of-mouth and hearsay would suffice when trying to bring down any politician, celebrity, or leader. That is exactly what the Toronto Star was trying to do. Since Rob Ford was first elected to office, the famous Toronto newspaper did everything it could to ensure his failure. In the end, Rob Ford did it to himself by doing exactly what his opponents wanted him to do: be a careless, stupid drunk and get into serious trouble. Again, the Toronto Star can't take any credit.
Some Canadians began acting as recklessly as Rob Ford when news of the crack video surfaced. A sort of frenzy began and journalists and tweeters exploded with orgasmic fervor over the destruction of a vocal, unapologetic conservative. They finally had what they wanted. Someone who didn't share their views on taxes, cyclists, and welfare was about to drown and they were ready to watch, with popcorn in their hands. The crack video scandal became one of the most despicable and pathetic displays of leftist zeal ever witnessed in Canada. The slander and chest thumping began instantly on Twitter, on blogs, and in media. All of it happened before anyone could offer any substantial and objective evidence to prove it. They believed it because they wanted to.
In the end, Rob Ford broke the law. He admitted to breaking the law once the video ended up in the hands of the Toronto police, leaving little reason for any conservatives to defend him. If anyone should have defended him, it should have been liberals. After all, liberals are the ones who support rehabilitation, legalized drugs, legalized prostitution and safe injection sites. If anyone should be calling for his resignation, it should be conservatives, not liberals. Strangely, but predictably, it was liberals who began calling for his resignation long before the actual crack video turned up. It was liberals – who want safe injection sites and legal drugs in their communities – that weren't willing to forgive Rob Ford for smoking crack during a drunken stupor.
Hypocrisy has reared its ugly head on both sides of the political spectrum. Rob Ford is a hypocrite for palling around with criminals while railing against safe injection sites and drugs. Liberals are hypocrites for advocating rehabilitation and softer penalties for drug abusers while demonizing Rob Ford. Conservatives are hypocrites for defending Rob Ford and his mistakes while supporting stiffer punishments and fewer chances for anyone else who isn't Rob Ford. The entire Rob Ford scandal has shed light on the gaping cracks in conservatism and liberalism. More importantly, it has lit up the dark and unethical corners of Canada's morally bankrupt media establishments.